Mankato Area Public Schools facing $9 million deficit amid budget planning | Local News

MANKATO — Mankato Area Public Schools is expecting a $9 million deficit by the end of this fiscal year, the board heard during a work session Wednesday evening.

The number comes from the district’s efforts to bounce back from COVID-19 and lower-than-expected enrollment numbers.

Last year, the school board approved taking $6.6 million from the district’s savings to account for its spending being higher than its revenue, something Supt. Paul Peterson previously told the Free Press it was a one-time decision to help recover from the pandemic.

October 1 enrollment numbers showed 261 fewer students than the district was expecting, which resulted in an additional almost $3.4 million less in revenue for the district this fiscal year.

With a trifecta in the state government, the district is now planning for a trifecta of scenarios of their own to make ends meet as they plan the next budget, Director of Business Services Amanda Heilman said.

First, the district will need to make budget adjustments to find $9 million for FY 24.

Second, the district is hoping the Legislature will fully fund the education formula and special education.

The district is also likely looking at going to voters with referendums this fall.

“Those three things are really critical to the district as far as moving forward and creating that financial capability for ourselves in FY 24 and beyond,” Heilman said.

Wednesday evening, the board began conversations on what they were not willing to negotiate on, including mental health support for students and staff on the list.

The budget has a while to go before a preliminary version is presented to the board in June; a design team composed of administrators and an input team with internal and external stakeholders will also take a close look at the numbers and how they can meet their goal.

Chair Shannon Sinning said he wants the board and all teams involved to be creative in planning.

“We really encouraged them to be bold with the options and creative. And sometimes the most creative and bold thing that would serve as the best option ten years from now might not be the best option now.

“So to think about it, give us every option with the price tags generally attached, and then as a board we really want to go through and be creative and strategic,” he said.


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